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Valentine’s Day

14 Feb 2017: The morning started with a text from the bank that reminded me to buy an insurance policy from them to safeguard my loved ones, followed by a couple of restaurants, grocery shopping sites, cake shop, coffee shop, flower shop etc., all offering exclusive offers so that I can show some love to my loved ones on this Valentine’s day.

I feel obliged by their generosity and goodwill and hereby I want to thank them for keeping the true spirit of this day alive. Hope by the next year the liquor shop would also send me a text with some exclusive offers. It’d be a perfect day.

Changes

I knew that this day would come. Maybe this is how it happens. The oblivious you run straight into it – this phase of life. I reflected on many things, after I was hit hard by the realization. And the trigger for all these realizations was the fact that I now have a preference for a shampoo. I was astounded.

I was the guy who can’t tell a conditioner from a shampoo, who have even applied baby shampoo a couple of times. We even had conversations like,

: My hair feels different today!

: What did you apply?

: Shampoo! (Duh!)

: Which bottle? Show me.

: There..that one.

: That’s a conditioner! or That’s the baby’s! Can’t you read labels?!

From there it became: “Hey! I think we should get the other shampoo. I don’t like it that much. The previous one was better.”

That’s a significant change, you see.

These are just symptoms. So I went back and back and back to do a root-cause analysis. It took me all the way back to the morning a couple of years ago when I was wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt at home that read “Wild thing.” And this friend, who had stayed over after a house party, quipped – it should now read “Domesticated thing.” I think that’s the starting. The root-cause. I was in denial.

The change had started a few years ago. At least 3 years, I guess. Otherwise why on earth would I ever quit smoking?! My friends still don’t believe me when I say that I haven’t been smoking for 3 years. I don’t blame them. I used to joke – when I die, I should still have a packet of cigarettes under my pillow. Good old days! I was even thinking to quit alcohol this year. The missus went berserk- are you crazy! You are already boring enough. That’s the only thing that remains of the old person that you were.

No, she did not exactly said those words; but when I told her my intentions, she bought me a good drink instead. Some things are conveyed beyond words.

While all these things were happening with and around me, I was still searching within. Probing. Then I told myself one plausible cause of all this – I am now a father. We are now parents. We must get our shit stuff together. Was that a good euphemism? Damn it.

A flowchart about how not to get killed on the road

The incident that happened in Bihar earlier this month (Aditya incident) has again emphasized the need for our awareness about road-safety, which we, the ordinary Indians, lack terribly.

Let me borrow a line from George Orwell’s evergreen novel Animal Farm to illustrate the point that I am trying to make in this post:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Now, please don’t misquote me as equating anyone to animals. No, I am not. It’s just a catchphrase that is helpful for the ordinary Indians to remember as a survival trick. Because, you see, they (the aam aadmi) must remember where they belong. These ordinary people must not tread the path of the “more equal” people, if they want to remain alive. By the way, by “aam aadmi” I mean the ordinary people of India, as in, the aam junta; not the Aam Aadmi Party, they are a notch above the entire human race. The term “aam aadmi” is just a juxtaposition that the emperor Arvind Kejriwal used. If you are in a party, how can you be aam aadmi?! That’s brilliant wordplay. Clever chap, Kejriwal. IIT-ian, after all 😉

Coming to the point – the Aditya incident really troubled me initially. But as the pictures of both the cars emerged, I realized that it was a clear case of lack of awareness about road-safety. A Maruti Swift does not overtake a Range Rover. Never. Period. Can you imagine how much humiliation that might have caused to the guy driving the Range Rover? Besides, he is a “more equal” person. Taking a cue from that incident, I have compiled a few checks that an ordinary Indian must do while overtaking another car. This is for the people of/in Pune. Whenever you approach a private-owned car (taxis won’t kill you, they’ll just take your car’s bumper off), remember these points before you overtake.

Hope that helps. Live long and prosper.

FC_Overtaking

 

Pune to Dapoli on a hot April weekend

She was just a week old in our family and we both – the missus and I – were dying to get to know her better. Yes, the car. Besides, we – the Assamese people – get overtly joyous around mid April, even  though we are not in Assam; thanks to the Bohag Bihu aka Rongali Bihu (rongali = joyous). We can’t help it, it’s in our blood. Incidentally, my birthday is around the same time as well. Until two years ago, it was a great occasion to tank up and be hung over the entire day. But the time has changed, and so have the priorities (from parties to diapers). So a weekend trip some place this time was what the missus opined. Cool.

Now, April is not particularly a great month to enjoy in Maharashtra. Unless you really enjoy sizzling at 40+ degree C. But hey, the resorts have ACs – pointed out the missus, while looking up Dapoli in TripAdvisor. Though I had presented some more elaborate plans, of  going to Alibaug, crossing over to Gateway of India, roaming around in Colaba, she refuted all by reminding me of our 1.5 year old daughter, Hiya, who will accompany us. Fair enough.

On Friday morning, I called up the second resort that came up in TripAdvisor search. It had a suite available that fulfilled all our requirements – AC, balcony, couch, TV, clean bathrooms, and food – at a relatively cheaper rate. Additionally, it even had a mini refrigerator and a little pantry area. Booked.

On Saturday morning, I quickly glanced at the route in Google map, made some notes in my mind, and we started pretty much in time. I opted for the Tamhini ghat route as I knew the route all the way till Mangao ST bus stand. (*ST= State Transport)

The route:

Chandni Chowk -> Paud -> Tamhini Ghat -> MIDC Road -> Mangaon ST bus stand (Mumbai – Goa road) -> Tol Phata -> Dapoli

Total distance was about 220 KMs that we covered in 5 hours (of which, we took 1 hour  just to cover 20 KMs in Pune until we reached Chandni Chowk.)

The road was mostly good, with a little rough patches here and there. But we really didn’t feel any bump. If you haven’t been on that route before, FYI – it’s quite a scenic route with good roads (as of April 11, 2016). The catch is to know when to take a left turn onto the MIDC Road. Till then, it is a pretty straight forward route. After the MIDC road, take left and go all the way to Mangao ST Stand on Mumbai-Goa highway. Take the highway for another couple of kilometers until you get Tol Phata (Not TOLL phata, there’s no toll booth. Instead you’ll see some “7-seater” autos) on your right. From there, I used GPS, but you’ll get signs after every kilometer.

The ride:

How can I miss that! It was a pleasant, smooth, planted drive throughout.

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My ride: Standing tall, with Konkani red soil all over her.

I exposed the car for the first time to all sorts of conditions – city, village, good roads, bad roads, highway, hilly road, narrow road, beach sand, everything! And to my delight, she was more than happy to take that all. She was only about 250 KMs old when we started, but she behaved like an old friend throughout that 500 KMs that we traveled in that trip. It was like an instant bond; and a man spent some really enjoyable hours with his machine.

 

Apparently, the missus enjoyed it pretty much, too. “Wow! I like the rear seat.” was her first (and only) feedback.

 The resort:

Well well well… it was a good place to say the least. Better than expected, in fact. When we reached there, we were not sure whether to stay for one night or two nights; but after doing a quick survey of the room, I affirmed that we’ll extend our stay to two nights.

To my delight, the room/suite had two ACs, and a comfortable sofa cum bed (that acts as a recliner too) in the seating area that was directly under an AC. So my plans for day 2 (Sunday) was made – I’ll fill the refrigerator with beer cans and drink all that the entire day seating on the recliner under the AC, munching on Surmai fry. Life was good again.

The resort is clean and the people are good. However, room service takes hours. And, well, avoid bread toasts. We hadn’t eaten a more burnt toast before. If you are not very picky, this is not a bad place. The Konkan region is not known for great hospitality anyway. This place served us some rather tasty Surmai fry, chicken curry, neer dosa, rice etc. The food was a little costly though.

All that is OK, but how is Dapoli?

Yeah, I am coming to that. If you are going there just to get out of home, drive

Beach

Sunset at Karde beach.

and chill out, like we did, it is a good place. That is true for most of Konkani places I believe. Our resort was right at the middle of the small Dapoli town, behind ST bus stand. The beach was around 14 KMs from there. The road to the beach was initially not bad, but after a while it gets really narrow. Like, really really narrow. And buses run on that road. Good luck if you are driving and you get a bus in one of those narrow turns. And apart from the beach, we did not see anything interesting in Dapoli. There are some water sports facility available in the beach. We did not spot any eatery around. There was another beach nearby, but we decided to give it a miss.

 

The (Karde) beach is good to catch some breeze. Personally, I won’t swim there, thanks to the sands. The beach was pretty empty, and was like that of Diveagar. Hiya was enthralled to experience the sea for the first time.

Tip: If you are a pothead unlike me, it’ll be heavenly at the beach to say adios to such a hot day while looking at the sunset and feeling the breeze.

 

 

 

 

My Ciaz ZXI – Initial Ownership Review

Part 1: The deciding factor

I loved the Ciaz right when it was launched almost 1.5 years ago, so much so that in June 2015 I even came pretty close to buying one. But then I was not 100% convinced whether I should take the plunge or not. Probably for the first time in my life, I listened to reason and cancelled the plan of a new car. I gave my impatient soul one year’s time.

Our criteria were – it should be spacious, comfortable, adequately powerful, feature rich, and fuss-free ownership and after-sales support. And, to some extent, decent resale value. Though owning my Chevrolet (Spark) was a pleasant experience for me from the after-sales point of view, the resale value was terrible. From this point, our hunt began, for the car that suits us the most. Going by the elimination method, we first ruled out what we call “the pseudo cars”: It should either be a proper hatch-back, or a sedan, or an SUV. There was no place for a prefix of “compact”. No compact sedan, no compact SUV. Buzz off!

Immediately I started checking out the other options. And the most obvious were the Germans! I think no car lover wouldn’t drool over a Vento or a Rapid. They are a class apart. But at the end of the day, a Volkswagen or a Skoda badge comes with some degree of skepticism for an average Indian car buyer. The recent mess that VW is going through has also raised concerns about the dependability of world’s one of the most trusted automobile brands. There were even more concerns that people raised at various car forums. So the Germans had to go and I feel bad that I could not own one. I am sure, they would drive great and feel great. The next was obviously the segment leader – none other than the Honda City! I was almost certain of buying that, but the almost 1.5 Lakh premium over Ciaz and still missing some basic features had put me on the spot. At that time too, I was evaluating between the City and the Ciaz. The Jazz 2015 was the last option. Somehow I did not want to go the Hyundai way. So we had successfully narrowed down our search. That’s what I thought.

Then towards the end of October 2015, Maruti launched Baleno with much fanfare. And that changed all the equations I had in my mind. I liked the design, especially in the top-end variant, Alpha, that has the nice projector head lamps and the DRLs that distinguish the headlamps from those of the Swift. With all the bells and whistles, it fitted my bill perfectly. The next task was to convince the missus that it was a better idea than buying a sedan, which I did after some initial futile attempts. Hence the decision was made – we will buy the Baleno by the end of second quarter or in the third quarter of 2016 (calendar year).

Then in the Auto-Expo Feb 2016, Maruti showcased the Brezza after creating a lot of buzz in the market. I fell for it head over heels despite of the initial hatred for the compact SUVs. However, the missus was dead-against it and the Diesel-only policy was kind of a deal breaker for me. Though there were news that it’ll come in Petrol too, nothing was confirmed and official. I couldn’t wait anymore. I called up all the Nexa outlets in Pune to inquire about the Baleno. And to my horror, they had waiting period of 7 months for the hatch of my dreams! Who’ll wait that long for a car? Not me!

Heartbroken.

Then about a month passed and finally the Brezza was launched. Even Ford had slashed the Ecosport prices substantially and that had made it – the Ecoboost engine especially – a good contender. From what I heard, space in the rear seat was a constraint, the boot was not too large, city driveability might be an issue due to the turbo lag in the turbo-charged 1.0 Litre Ecoboost  engine, and personally I don’t like the dashboard with the plethora of buttons. Ecosport – nope!

Amids all this, Maruti advertised good exchange schemes and I stepped into a showroom to inquire about the offers and also to check out Brezza. After seeing it in flesh, Brezza was unanimously striked out of our consideration list. So we took a test drive of the Ciaz Petrol instead.

As it turned out, Ciaz’s on-paper “underpowered” engine (1400 CC) was, after all, not so underpowered. I liked how it pulled in the 3rd gear from 20 km/h with A/C and 3 adults on-board, and it had good throttle response to drive in the city. When I floored the throttle in the top gear, it did take a second or two to serve up the power. But I can certainly live with that, considering my 90% driving will be in the city. Overall, the cabin felt well put together and the A/C was a real chiller. I checked the doors closing and opening, they did not sound tin-like at all. So the build quality was good as well! Hence the decision was made – a Ciaz ZXI it is!

Part 2: Buying

Now the March-ending stuff. All these lucrative offers are valid only for the next 4 days. We walked out of the showroom with a promise to book the car next day, as we were getting a good deal on my old car (Chevrolet Spark, 3 years and 3 months, 18150 KMS).

PartingShot

The parting shot: While taking her to the Maruti True Value, for exchange.

But the next day the sales guy confirmed that there were no Silver Ciaz ZXI, as I wanted, and I should instead go for a color of his choice. He didn’t even know the features of the car and professionalism was something out of his vocabulary. So I shooed him away and thought to wait for a couple of months more, as per my initial plans. By the lunch time that day (Monday, March 28, 2016), just to calm the turbulence that was going in my head, I thought to check with another dealer – Chowgule. I’d heard good words about them from a trusted friend. The sales person was a delight to deal with. He came to my home the same evening, gave a test drive, and explained every details of the buying procedure. They also evaluated my Chevrolet Spark and agreed to offer the same deal that  I was getting from the other dealer. I wrote a cheque for the booking amount, and the deal was made. The next step was to reach his showroom by 11 next morning with a lot of documents!

The next day was, as expected, quite hectic. But this person helped me through everything. Even the loan was disbursed on the same day and the dealer promised to deliver the new car in 4 days. Exhausted by the day’s activities, I mourned my old car that I had to give away and prepared for the next 3 days without a car.

The wait seemed to be never-ending. Those were probably the longest three days  of my life!

I also had a lot of apprehensions about the new car since it was a quick delivery and I did not do any PDI. I could not even check the VIN to determine if the car was from an old stock. On the delivery day, the first thing I checked was the VIN code for the month and year of manufacture and the odometer. To my relief, the VIN manufacture code read – BG, denoting that it is a Feb 2016 made car. The odometer running was 30 KM. Splendid!

And here is a pic of my new car – my Silky Silver Ciaz ZXI. Probably I’ll call her Crystal, until I find a better name! 😉

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At the time of delivery: Odometer reading: 30 KMs, fuel efficiency: 6.7 KMPL.

Today, odometer: 88.8 KMs, fuel efficiency: 11.8 KMPL. I am sure, it’ll go further up as I drive more.

Trivia: Ciaz is actually an acronym for Comfort, Intelligence, Attitude, and Zeal. 🙂

Features:

  • Projector head lamps and front fog lamps
  • 15″ alloy wheels
  • 2 air bags
  • ABS, EBD
  • Height adjustable driver seat
  • Height adjustable front seat belts
  • Smart key with remote boot release
  • Engine start/stop button
  • Automatic climate control A/C
  • Rear A/C vents
  • Steering mounted phone and Bluetooth controls
  • Automatic day/night IRVM
  • Electronically adjustable and foldable ORVMs with integrated blinkers
  • Driver-side auto up/down and pinch guard window
  • Speed sensing auto door lock
  • Rear parking sensors with camera
  • Rear sunshade
  • Arm-rest both in front and rear
  • A LOT OF SPACE!
  • Big boot of 510 L
  • A good-enough sound system with remote
  • Very comfortable part leather-part fabric seats
  • Footwell lamps, 2 reading lamps in the rear, map lamp, theater dimming effect, boot lamp
  • Push-open concealed storage below the center console

What I like:

  • Seating position: High and comfortable with good visibility. I am 6.1 foot and it matters a lot!
  • Chiller A/C. Not too noisy even at highest blower speed.
  • The wide range of features!
  • Easy handling and driveability in the city.
  • Fit and finish.
  • Comfort.
  • Fuel economy.
  • Unlike my previous car, no change in power when the A/C is turned on or off.
  • Light steering that weighs up well with speed. Maneuvering is fun.
  • Almost flat floor in the rear, no intrusion from the transmission tunnel.
  • Spacious seat and interior.

What I do not like:

  • The driver arm-rest is too far behind. I wish I could slide and adjust it.
  •  The dead-pedal is just a rubber pad on the floor, it should have been raised.
  • The windows do not close smoothly. It is powerful and rough.

I am yet to drive her in the night or take her to the highway. Eagerly waiting to get the best of her and soothe the soul with a good drive. That’s a long overdue!

So I went to Panchgani and learned to walk

No, not me. It’s my daughter. We three went to Panchgani to celebrate her first birthday, and this is how it all happened.

What’s the big deal, you’d ask. But in the Baruah household here, given the situations in the past almost 2 years, it was indeed a big deal. I tell you, becoming parents and then raising a kid is – to say the least – not easy. So the missus was contemplating about what to do for the little one’s first birthday. It was a special day indeed; again, it was the day when *ahem* I had popped the question 4 years ago. As you understand, this is a 2-in-1 occasion and this year it coincided with Durga Puja too. It indeed calls for a celebration, and I better don’t dare slugging.

While she was going over frocks and matching stuff for the baby, I suggested in an exaggerated enthusiasm – let’s go somewhere on her birthday; how about Goa? After 2 days, Goa was changed to Panchgani/Lonavla. Suggestion came from a friend – go to Panchgani and check out this hotel Ravine. I googled about the hotel and showed to the missus. Immaculate, perfect were the words. The problem started when I tried to book a room – no room was available. we were scheduled to leave on Wednesday morning, and I searched till 2 AM on Sunday night /Monday morning to look for a decent hotel that can fulfill my list of criteria (First vacation with the baby, after all!). Futile efforts. At 10 in the Monday morning, I called up Ravine just to confirm that there were no rooms. The reply came as expected. Then I was about to book a hotel that came close to fulfilling my criteria. And when I was about to enter my credit card details in the hotel booking section, came an email from Ravine – one room is available and I need to call them ASAP. So a room with a valley view at Ravine was ours for two nights and we were going out! Yahoo!

I was utterly anxious about the whole thing. I was certain that something or the other will go wrong. The biggest bet was the baby. With silent prayers in the head, we started our journey to Panchgani right at the planned time.

Google maps showed 2 hours 20 minutes, and we spent the first 1 hour only trying to get to the highway. The highway was a mixed bag. But I found it getting better as we progressed. Many patches were good enough to cross the three-figure mark on the speedometer of my hatchback, up to 110; I preferred to keep it in 80-90 range though, at least for the sleeping baby. The road in the return journey was much better and I drove mostly on three figures. Both the girls were on the rear, with sleepy eyes, and I was enjoying the drive. The randomized playlist in the stereo too played  nostalgic songs one after the other. It was like the whole universe conspired!

Hiya in Hotel RivaneThe trip proved to be beyond success and joy. Our baby slept through half the journey and she LOVED the place as soon as we entered. She went beyond herself. And yes, she learned to walk; not the 4-5 unsteady steps as she used to take at home. She was actually walking around the room blabbering things out of excitement. She did not cry a single time, she went wherever we took her without any fuss, she played with dogs and fishes, she did petty shopping with her mommy in Mahabaleshwar, and she ate and slept without any effort from us. It was like, a dream vacation! A happy baby makes parenting so much easier!

And that’s how it all came to an end – like all good things do. After 3 days / 2 nights and 300 KMS on the odometer, I was poorer by 12-13 thousands; but I earned a memory so rich and so valuable that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. So much so, I have vowed to rekindle that dying wanderer in me. With time, that shall be done too. Amen.

Maharashtra government plans restrictions on horn, attracts sharp criticism.

Pune, Satire News, September 28, 2015: The Maharashtra government yesterday revealed the possibilities of measuring the amount of sound that a car’s horn makes and to put a limit on it. After banning the writing of the iconic phrase “Horn OK Please” behind the trucks in Maharashtra last May, the state government seems to be in a serious mission to HORNbanminimize sound pollution in its cities.

While attending a press conference here in Pune, a state transport official said that the government is mulling over the possibility of measuring the amount of sound that a vehicle’s horn makes each day. If this exceeds the maximum permissible amount of sound, a fine will be imposed on the driver of the vehicle. Refusing to comment about how they are planning to implement this rule, the official said, “This is still an idea. We are researching on the various aspects of it, and as soon as we arrive at a conclusion, you shall come to know.”

This proposition has, however, attracted sharp criticism from the opposition and a section of the citizens. The leader of opposition, Raul Gandi said that it is yet another example of how the ruling party is exploiting the farmers. “This is a government of cars. We need a government of bullocks, of plows, of farms, of water, of RTI, of woman empowerment. We do not need this government of suits and boots.” Mr. Gandi added.

While attending a rally in protest of politicization of FTII, the political leader Yoga Yadav said that it is a sheer violation of personal liberty. “The government is again stepping on our toes. Meat ban, Horn OK Please ban, and now horn ban? This ban culture should not be encouraged at any cost. I am flabbergasted at this atrocious behavior of the government. It must be condemned in the strongest way possible.”

The All Arobindo Party chief Mr. Arobindo Paltuwal took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction over this issue – “Please let us honk; we are honking well. BTW, #KKPK is fun!” he tweeted.

We spoke to citizens from many areas of the city to know their reaction. While the senior citizens welcomed this move as a radical solution to the raising problem of noise pollution and impatient drivers, the younger generation is visibility upset with the news. “Why do you think I installed this 10 sound horn in my Activa? What the F***, bro!?” A youth yelled.

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This is a satirical post, and of course, a work of fiction. You are not that dumb, are you?